Imagine waking up and not being able to move.
This was the frightening reality of international entertainer Zakariyah Toerien, 31, from Tafelsig, who was due to fly to Johannesburg to do star jumps, sing and dance on stage.
“I just could not move,” he said.
He was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), a rapid-onset of muscle weakness caused by the immune system, and which damages the peripheral nervous system.
The initial symptoms are typically changes in sensation or pain, along with muscle weakness, beginning in the feet and hands.
On January 13, he had to call in sick for the first time since he took to the stage at age six.
The father of two daughters, was in a coma for six months at Groote Schuur Hospital before he was transferred to the Western Cape Rehabilitation Centre at Lentegeur Psychiatric Hospital on July 29, where he has to learn how to use his hands and feet again.
Last week, Zakariyah told the Plainsman: “I feel like I can just stand up, but my body won’t allow me to. I have had to learn to move limb by limb”.
He said the past two months had been hard work with the occupational therapy, physiotherapy and activities to strengthen and reactivate his muscles.
“It is like my leg is sleeping. (And) I can’t hold my plate,” he told Plainsman.
“I was energetic, super fit and my work demands high energy all of the time.”
He was due to perform in Johannesburg at the Barnyard theatre on January 13 but he could not move.
He was rushed to hospital, where he was diagnosed with tuberculosis (TB) and a collapsed lung.
“I couldn’t explain it. I was just sick,” he said.
Zakariyah does cover versions of Michael Jackson, James Brown, Prince and Little Ritchie, and was on tour for about a year.
He starred in David Kramer and the late Taliep Petersen’s South African musical Kat and the Kings, which had its 250th performance in 2012 at the Fugard Theatre.
That same year, Zakariyah, who played the character Magoo, was nominated for the Fleur du Cap Theatre Award for best performance by a supporting actor.
He was also a member of the boy band Sweet Humourous Youngsters (SHY), who did comical songs to make people laugh and help organisations raise funds.
Zakariyah started performing at age six, with Kinders van die Ses, a group of entertainers, started by Emo and Loukmaan Adams, formerly from Eastridge.
While he has been in hospital and at the centre, family and friends have rallied to help his wife.
“I have learned to sabr (persevere). Allah has taught me to stay humble,” he said.
Among his friends is Zenobia Daniels, daughter of Salie Daniels, star and muse of musical production Kat and the Kings — the original Kat Diamond — who will be hosting a benefit concert in Zakariyah’s honour to help cover medical bills and some financial responsibilities.
The show, Cape Stars Unite 2, will be staged at Cedar High School of the Arts, on the corner of Spine and Weltevreden roads, in Rocklands, on Saturday October 12, at 8pm.
Tickets cost R80. For more information there is a Facebook Zee Productions, or you can call Zenobia Daniels at 061 167 0135.